The chimes of “Juley!” still ring in my ears and a content smile comes on my face, thinking of those peaceful eyes and warm cheerful smiles. Juley means ‘greetings’ in Ladakhi. Everyone greets each other by saying ‘Ju-leyy’ in a way that almost sounds like a sweet song! 🙂 This simple sweetness of the people, stunning scenery and the adventures on our bike ride through 3600 kms of Himalayas, and I’ve fallen in love all over again with life and travelling!
It’s been a month since I got back from an awesome road trip to Ladakh, and I still haven’t found enough words to describe what I saw or felt just being there! It takes a while to get over the solitude and the overwhelming scale & beauty of these Himalayas! Enchanted by the clear blue skies, unrealistic moon-like landscapes, beautiful ancient monasteries and the jaw dropping night skies, I still dream of those timeless peaceful moments… it is truly the most divine place on earth!
This was my first bike trip to the Himalayas and it was euphoric – ride of a lifetime! I’ve realized that there is not a better way to travel and experience these mountains than on a bike, with close friends. It’s quite a challenge in this rough terrain as most parts of the road are above 13,000 ft and the distance one can cover in a day depends on the road and weather conditions. It’s quite a thrill to ride but I was fortunate to sit pillion and enjoy the view. 🙂
Itinerary of the trip: 20 days
Delhi to Kargil: Delhi – Anantpur Sahib – Jammu – Srinagar via Zoji La Pass to Drass – Kargil.
Kargil to Zanskar: Kargil – Parkachik – Rangdum (Suru Valley) & back to Kargil. (The road goes till Padum in Zanskar)
Kargil to Leh via Srinagar Ladakh highway: Kargil – Lamayuru Monastery – Likir Monastery – Alchi Monastery – Leh (Leh Palace, Thikse Monastery)
Leh to Nubra: Leh via Khardung La Pass – Diskit – Hunder – Turtuk and back to Leh.
Leh to Tso Moriri: Leh – Upshi – Chumathang – Mahe bridge – Tso Moriri – Tso Kar.
Pang to Delhi via Leh Manali highway: Pang – Sarchu – Keylong – Manali and back to Delhi.
We started our journey from Delhi and chose the Srinagar – Leh route, as the accent to the higher Himalayas is more gradual from Srinagar than going from Manali to Leh. Here are some more reasons to choose this route. Crossing cities, towns, villages, mountains and meandering rivers we drove for 10 -12 hours a day and stopped by sunset wherever we found a descent place to tuck ourselves in a warm bed. Taking breaks in between to take photos or sip on chai, admiring the view of the glorious vista surrounding us and acquainting with the place & people. Wandering and exploring each day, it was a nomadic life that I loved!
Settlements become more remote as you go deeper in the Himalayas, but Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Tourism has bungalows and guesthouses in most places, and there are home-stays too, which give simple food (dal, egg & rice mostly) & hot water for bath, a luxury in most of Ladakh. Homestay is a unique way to experience the culture & people of Ladakh. The people are warm, friendly, helpful and generally happy.
It’s a sensitive area as it’s near the international borders of India and an Inner Line Permit is required to visit most places, which can be obtained from Leh. The roads are in very good condition at some places like Nubra valley and Srinagar – Leh Highway and all the army areas, but in some places there’s barely a dirt track. The roads are constantly being constructed or repaired by BRO (Border Roads Organization).
Ladakh is a high altitude cold desert mostly barren, desolate and harsh yet sublimely beautiful – a paradise for photographers. Wide-angle lenses are a MUST and so are polarizing filters, to filter out the reflected light. Also, while framing landscapes look for something to compare the size of the gigantic mountains with. Take a tripod and a remote switch, if you are interested in night photography. The night skies in Ladakh are as magnificent as the landscapes in the day! Make sure you have enough memory cards and extra batteries, as at some places the temperature is sub-zero, which makes the batteries discharge sooner.
A few pictures from the trip. For more pictures of Ladakh on Flickr.
Ladakh is ‘the land of high passes’, breath-taking landscapes, pristine lakes and gorgeous monasteries in the Himalayas. Travelling through this idyllic beauty of the mountains, peace & tranquility, warm-hearted people and the hair-raising adventure was the most unusual, ‘out of this world’ experience I’ve had – a dream trip to the roof of the world! 🙂